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Coach plans to apologize to players

SAN FRANCISCO -- Though Jeff Tedford usually ignores the
rumors of his imminent departure from California, the coach
couldn't block out the shouts from the cheap seats at Husky Stadium
last weekend.

"Some of the Washington fans were telling the team some things
that they shouldn't have to deal with," Tedford said. "Fans were
saying they were going to steal (Cal's) coach. That shouldn't
happen. It's not about me, it's about the team."

Though it was hardly his fault, Tedford plans to apologize to
his players for the distraction during their blowout win over the
hapless Huskies.

His message to the fourth-ranked Golden Bears (8-1, 6-1 Pac-10)
will be the same one he's always stated publicly about his future:
He's happy at Cal, and he can't think of much that Washington or
Florida or an NFL team could offer to change his mind.

"There's really not much to say that they don't already know,
that I haven't told them before," Tedford said Monday after the
kickoff luncheon for Saturday's 107th Big Game against Stanford.
"I love it at Cal. We're doing great things here."

While transforming the Bears from a doormat to a national
championship contender in just three years, Tedford has been linked
to nearly every major-college job opening and several NFL posts,
mostly by overly optimistic boosters and media.

Though Tedford takes calls from suitors, there's a growing
consensus among fans and boosters in the Bay Area that their coach
will stick around to build on what he's started -- probably with a
lucrative contract re-negotiation, which could be worked out before
Cal's trip to a bowl game.

Just don't try to draw specifics from Tedford, who
understandably keeps many of his thoughts as private as his
complicated game plans.

"I'm very uncomfortable talking about this," Tedford said. "I
don't even think anything about that. I'm very encouraged about the
progress and where we're headed as an athletic program. I trust
fully that we're making the progress it takes to move the program
forward, and the progress we need to stay competitive in
recruiting."

Though new athletic director Sandy Barbour hasn't yet traded
contract numbers with Tedford's agent, she's working feverishly to
upgrade Cal's dilapidated football facilities. Tedford's winning
team will make it infinitely easier to raise those funds, including
a large amount that's already been donated even before the school
announces concrete plans for Memorial Stadium.

Though Barbour and chancellor Robert Birgeneau are new on their
jobs, they understand the tremendous asset they've been handed in
Tedford.

"The important thing is how Jeff feels about the progress that
we're making, and I'll make sure he's informed about everything we
do," said Barbour, who was hired just two months ago.

Barbour doesn't anticipate an announcement on Cal's stadium
plans by Dec. 1 -- the date of a deadline triggering a buyout clause
in Tedford's contract if progress isn't made on a new stadium. But
neither Barbour nor Tedford puts much stock in that date, calling
it just a guideline.

Though Tedford has given Cal fans almost no reason to doubt his
truthfulness, any prospective employer who sees the Bears'
discipline, skill and flair can't help being intrigued by the coach
in charge of it all. Cal has its highest rank since 1952 -- and if
the Bears and top-ranked Southern California both win the schools'
final two games, Cal seems headed for the Rose Bowl for the first
time in 46 years.

Tedford's fan club isn't confined to the college ranks, either.
The Chicago Bears were keenly interested in him for their vacant
head coaching position last season.

But Tedford seems content to confine his pro experience to his
days in the CFL for now.

"It's not something that really interests me," he said of the
NFL rumors. "I'm very happy to be at Cal. I feel more comfortable
with the college game, being around the kids and recruiting, that
kind of thing."